Before last week’s massacre in Las Vegas, most Americans probably had never heard of bump stocks, which police say Stephen Paddock used to increase his rate of fire while shooting at country music fans from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Since then the accessories have become so notorious that YouTube is taking down videos showing them in action and gun owners are rushing to buy them in anticipation of a ban, a step that President Trump and Republican legislators say they are willing to consider. Even the National Rifle Association has said new restrictions on bump stocks may be appropriate.
Although there is less to the NRA’s concession than meets the eye, it shows the organization is squishier on gun rights than its reputation suggests. It also illustrates the strength of the urge to do something (or be seen as doing something) in response to mass shootings, even when that thing is unlikely to have any measurable impact on the frequency or deadliness of such crimes.
“Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions,” the NRA said last Thursday, “the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law. The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”